The British Education System


Whether you are moving to the UK or have been living here all your life the multiple educational systems available can make it very difficult to choose the right school for your child.

Let us start by establishing that there are private and independent educational systems with different types of educational institutions in each of them. State schools are the ones provided by the government authority and are free for all pupils, Independent or Private Schools charge fees to the parents. There are fundamental similarities. For instance, all boys and girls must attend full-time education until the age of 16 with many staying on at school after that age to prepare themselves for university or other careers, with a greater number from independent schools staying at school until the age of 18 and most of them going on to university after they graduate. Although both follow National Curriculum (a framework for education introduced in 1988 by the Government), private schools are not required to follow it in all details but they must show they provide a good all-round education. Every school in the UK is inspected regularly every few years by Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) for state schools and ISI (Independent School Inspectorate) for private ones. 

The education system in the UK is divided into four main parts, primary education, secondary education, further education and higher education. It is usually split into four stages, which go as follows:

Generally key stages 1 and 2 will be undertaken at primary school and at 11 years old a student will move onto secondary school and finish key stages 3 and 4.

Students are assessed at the end of each stage. The most important assessment of compulsory education occurs at age 16 when students pursue their GCSE's or General Certificate of Secondary Education. Once students complete their GCSE's they have the choice to go onto further education and then potential higher education, or finish school and go into the working world.


Key Stage 1: 5 to 7 years old
Key Stage 2: 7 to 11 years old
Key Stage 3: 11 to 14 years old
Key Stage 4: 14 to 16 years old
A-levels (further education)
University (higher education)